Caltech Researchers Discover Brain Location That Influences Gambling
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PASADENA (CBS) — Some may say there’s a science behind gambling and for those who believe that, they may actually be onto something.
Researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) say they have discovered the exact location in a human brain that influences gambling, more specifically, a gambler’s belief that a payoff is “due,” it was reported Saturday.
John O’Doherty, professor of Psychology at Caltech and adjunct professor of Psychology at Ireland’s Trinity College in Dublin, conducted the study with Ryan Jessup.
The study shows that wagers made by persons under the influence of the so-called “gambler’s fallacy” may be the result of a structure in the brain called the dorsal stratium.
The brain’s dorsal striatum reinforces the notion that a certain outcome is due based on past events — better known as the gambler’s fallacy, O’Doherty said.
The fallacy is demonstrated at any casino, where a gambler may spend hours at a slot machine he feels is “due” despite knowing that the mathematical odds against winning never change.
The study suggests that people who choose based on the gambler’s fallacy may be doing so because at the time of the choice they are not taking into account what they had previously learned or observed, Caltech said in a news release.
The scholars reached their decision after getting participants to play simple games in which they were required to make choices that result in winning or losing small amounts of money at Trinity College Dublin.
For each round, participants were charged a half euro, regardless of the outcome. All the while, the researchers studied the brain activity of participants, with a focus on how they appeared to chose colors.
“The dorsal striatum was more active in people, who at the time of choice, chose in accordance with reinforcement-learning principles compared to when they chose according to the gambler’s fallacy,” Jessup said. “This suggests that the same region involved in learning is also used at the time of choice.”
“It is very important to try to understand how interactions between different brain areas result in different types of decision-making behavior,” O’Doherty added. “Once we understand the basic mechanisms in healthy people, we can start to look at how these systems go wrong in patients who suffer from different diseases such as psychiatric disorders or addiction, that impact their decision-making capabilities.”
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